Interview with Alke Bössiger, Head of department at UNI
UNI = Union Network International, the global federation of service sector unions
Question: UNI has pursued for years - like other global union federations - the strategy, to agree so-called
international framework agreements (IFA) with global corporations. What would you describe as the main strategy of
Bössiger: The processual understanding of the instrument is important. This has changed in recent years, because
we do not want a deal at any price, a paper - and that's it. It is essential to build up union networks. This also
applies to the retail industry, where our first agreements come from, and which were designed very minimalist.
Question: The role of the European works councils in the conclusion of international framework agreements is
controversial. To what extent does UNI integrate the EWCs?
Bössiger: There is no set procedure to run the negotiations. It is partly dependent on the strength of the local
unions. If we have strong EWCs in the respective field, then they will also be integrated. However not as sole and
central player, since after all, these representative bodies are not necessarily occupied with trade unionists. This
also applies to world works councils, where there is no guarantee that only union members were sent. For this reason,
it does not correspond with our policy to promote the establishment of such bodies. We rather try to build up our own
trade union networks, as you can very well see in the case of the telecommunications industry.
Question: In this sector you could renegotiate and conclude a framework agreement last year, namely with
Bössiger: Yes exactly. It is a good example that international framework agreements are part of a process.
Depending on our strength in each group, there is even the possibility to improve an agreement. The agreement with
Telefónica is really much used by our member unions, for example, the last annual meeting was held in Panama
in order to strengthen the position of our colleagues on site. At the subsidiary Atento in Brazil, the world's second
largest call center operator, we were able to recruit more than 10,000 new members by referring to the agreement. The
company has been neutral there with respect to our recruitment campaign. Overall, the idea of solidarity is
reinforced by the conclusion of an international framework agreement - and that is not to be underestimated for union
Alke Bössiger is head of the department for temporary and agency workers, gaming and social insurance of Union
Network International (UNI) in Nyon near Geneva.
Alke Bössiger was interviewed by Reingard Zimmer in Nyon on 19th March 2008.